In my last post I talked about the “seven deadly sins” of internet debates. Today I’d like to focus on a more positive list. In days when theological and political tempers can run high, here are seven “heart checks” and biblical guidelines for us as Christians when it comes to replying to someone we disagree with online—or even in person… these principles don’t just apply to online interactions!
- Confront, don’t condemn. We may feel the need to rebut someone’s viewpoint, but we don’t need to condemn the person or assume we know their motives. The devil is the accuser of the saints and he doesn’t need any extra help from us!
- Jesus’ guidelines for interpersonal conflict. If we do have a problem with someone personally, let’s commit to take it to them privately, in person (the Matthew 18 model). We don’t need to tweet it or get a bunch of people “on our side” with a Facebook group. Talk TO the person, not ABOUT the person.
- The chain of mercy. After telling us how to resolve conflict, Jesus in Matthew 18 goes on to illustrate the idea that we SHOW mercy to one another because we have first RECEIVED mercy from God (the parable of the unforgiving servant). Before responding in irritation or anger, let’s stop and remind ourselves of the terrible judgment that we deserved, and the amazing grace that we haven’t earned.
- Children of God. Remember that the person you are dialoguing/debating with is (hopefully) your brother or sister in Christ. How would the Father feel about the words you are about to say to him or her?
- Witness Alert. This relates to the family idea—as Christians we bear the family name. How would I like a non-Christian to see this exchange between two professing believers?
- Heaven. You know the anonymous person that you just “put down” on that internet forum? You’re going to meet him or her in heaven. This one really stops me in my tracks sometimes!
- Remember Jesus. He prayed that we would be one. His body was broken to end our hostility. His Spirit is building us together into God’s house (Ephesians 2). Let’s remember to agree on the primary issues (Jesus, the cross, the resurrection), which are much greater than the secondary issues which sometimes seem to divide us.
So there you have it—seven little reminders for the next time a fellow Christian makes your blood boil!